College financial planning: 5 things to remember

Financial planning is hard for everyone, but especially for sixth forms and colleges.  

Colleges have to prepare their financial statements to explain how they spend their money and account for their activities. There are lots of stages to complete, spreadsheets to fill out, and people to consult – from finance directors to college committees – and the guidelines seem to change every year. 

Colleges have to submit not 1, not 2, but 3 different documents to the ESFA: 

  • 3-year financial plan  
  • Supporting commentary 
  • Cover sheet signed by the accounting officer 

It’s no walk in the park – but if you remember these 5 things, you’ll be off to a good start.  

1. START EARLY 

This is good advice for any upcoming deadline, but especially for financial planning. The process has many stages and you’ll have to generate reports, calculate estimates and get sign off before you can even start your supporting commentary. Each section is dependent on another, so starting early is key.  

2. CHECK VARIATIONS 

As changes happen in the sector, the ESFA‘s handbook will be updated with new guidance – so make sure you’re working from the right edition. The new variations are highlighted in yellow.  

3. STICK TO THE GUIDELINES 

The financial planning handbook is there for a reason – use it. Print off a copy or keep it open on your computer as you work through each stage of the process. And don’t forget the all-important annexes! They’re easy to overlook, but they’re packed full of handy checklists and examples.  

4. USE TECHNOLOGY   

When it comes to financial planning, technology is your friend. Use reporting software to generate reports and calculate forecasts, and use graphs and tables to make your data easy to understand. The ESFA ask for documents to be created in Word or Excel with scanned signatures, so follow their guidelines. Your entire financial plan has to be submitted online and you don’t need to provide a hard copy.  

5. CHECK, AND DOUBLE-CHECK 

This goes without saying – get someone from your finance department to proof your submission. You could have missed a minor detail or made a major blunder – either way, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  

With these tips in mind you should be ready to ace your financial submission. To find out more about the process, head to the ESFA website 

 

 

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